Korean Religious Teacher Jung Myung Seok Is Charged with Rape

Jung Myung Seok, a Korean religious teacher whose doctrines reportedly present him as a savior completing the work of Jesus Christ, was sought by Korean police for rape in 2001 after several of his women followers alleged that they were sexually assaulted. Jung was sought by Interpol as well, and in 2007, he was captured by Chinese police and extradited to South Korea.

Summary of Event

South Korean religious teacher and self-proclaimed Messiah Jung Myung Seok became the center of controversy in 2001 after being charged with sexually assaulting and raping an unknown number of female followers. Allegations of the spiritual leader’s use of religious authority and teachings to abuse the trust and loyalty of his female followers to rape them captured the Eastern world’s attention and stirred demands for justice. [kw]Jung Myung Seok Is Charged with Rape, Korean Religious Teacher (June 30, 2001)
[kw]Rape, Korean Religious Teacher Jung Myung Seok Is Charged with (June 30, 2001)
Jung Myung Seok
Rape;and Jung Myung Seok[Jung Myung Seok]
Jesus Morning Star
[kw]Ellis Is Accused of Lying, Award-Winning Historian Joseph J. (June 18, 2001)
[kw]Lying, Award-Winning Historian Joseph J. Ellis Is Accused of (June 18, 2001)
Robinson, Walter V.
Creighton, Joanne V.
Velzen, Dick van
Ellis, Joseph J.
Boston Globe
Jung Myung Seok
Rape;and Jung Myung Seok[Jung Myung Seok]
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[g]Asia;June 30, 2001: Korean Religious Teacher Jung Myung Seok Is Charged with Rape[03090]
[g]South Korea;June 30, 2001: Korean Religious Teacher Jung Myung Seok Is Charged with Rape[03090]
[c]Sex crimes;June 30, 2001: Korean Religious Teacher Jung Myung Seok Is Charged with Rape[03090]
[c]Law and the courts;June 30, 2001: Korean Religious Teacher Jung Myung Seok Is Charged with Rape[03090]
[c]Religion;June 30, 2001: Korean Religious Teacher Jung Myung Seok Is Charged with Rape[03090]
[c]Hoaxes, frauds, and charlatanism;June 30, 2001: Korean Religious Teacher Jung Myung Seok Is Charged with Rape[03090]

Jung Myung Seok, wearing mask, is extradited to South Korea in early 2008. He was arrested in China in May, 2007, after evading arrest for six years.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

Jung’s church involvement began when he was a child and intensified during the 1970’s, when he became a member of the Unification Church Unification Church, a Christian sect headed by Messiah figure the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. During the 1980’s, Jung left Moon’s congregation with several of his own followers and created his own religious sect based on the Unification Church’s teachings. Jung’s church was named Jesus Morning Star, or JMS (also an acronym for Jung’s name), in reference to a New Testament passage from Revelation (2:24-29), which details Jesus’ rule over his followers and the rewards given to those who followed him. The JMS religious following also has been known as Setsuri (providence), the International Christian Association International Christian Association (ICA), and the Christian Gospel Mission Christian Gospel Mission (CGM). Jung claimed to be the Messiah and referred to his religious movement as the Second Coming of Christ. He asserted to his followers that he was a messenger of God and that their salvation could be obtained only through him.

Jung’s following quickly spread throughout South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. Members of the growing JMS congregation came to include people employed in state and federal organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the military, but the majority of JMS members were young university students. During the early 1990’s, JMS members began recruiting intensely from universities in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. The group’s recruitment strategy consisted of holding membership drives on college campuses to solicit students’ participation in their extracurricular activities, such as sports and social clubs. Students were encouraged by JMS members to sign up for these activities without being informed about the religious nature of the clubs. Through these activities, JMS members were able to gain the trust of prospective members and draw them into Jung’s following. JMS members also used university students’ background and personality profiles in their recruiting processes to more effectively attract them to the church. Many of the students targeted were highly intelligent and expected to become very successful in their careers. New JMS members were encouraged and required to induct other students into the following and to give sizeable monetary donations to the church to further the JMS mission and to increase their status within the cult.

In June, 1999, the Seoul Broadcasting Service in South Korea aired the first public accusations of sexual assault and rape against Jung. Hundreds of female followers came forward to describe how Jung used his self-proclaimed identity as the Messiah to seduce and assault women in the cult. The women explained how prospective female members were often sought out by senior members and handpicked from photographs by Jung. Women within the cult were expected to tend to Jung’s needs as servants, to keep him company, and to wear makeup and dress nicely. The women explained that most of the assaults would begin in the form of a health check or bath. Jung would order them to undress and take a bath with him to undergo a spiritual cleansing or healing process that entailed Jung washing their genitals to relieve them of sin and pain. These baths were performed privately with one female member or with several female members at once, and frequently resulted in sexual intercourse with Jung. Many of the women regarded their inclusion in these activities as a blessing and privilege and as a means of achieving a higher rank in the cult. To gain control over his female followers, Jung emphasized that the only way they could atone for their sins was through sexual intercourse with him, the Messiah, and were threatened with damnation if they spoke about having sex with him.

The women also explained how Jung maintained strict control over the marriages of Marriage;Jung Myung Seok JMS members. Members were allowed to marry other members only and marriages between members were reviewed by Jung for approval. Many prospective brides were required to see Jung for an interview and were frequently forced to have sex with him before they were allowed to marry. Marriages could be performed only by Jung in a mass wedding ceremony, and JMS newlyweds were urged to have children to increase the church’s following. The shocking accounts given by JMS victims on the broadcasting network shocked South Korea and led to demands that Jung be held accountable. As the broadcast aired, however, many JMS followers held protests outside the television station in support of Jung.

Jung fled South Korea following the allegations. Dismissing fears of retaliation and spiritual damnation, JMS victims pressed charges against Jung. On June 30, 2001, Korean police officially charged Jung with fraud, rape, and embezzlement (regarding JMS donations and funds) and initiated an international manhunt with Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organization). In 2003, he was detained for visa violations in Hong Kong but fled to China to avoid being extradited to South Korea after being released on bail.

While the search for Jung continued for several years, Japanese police raided several suspected JMS offices. During 2005-2006, Japanese police investigated a forty-four-year-old South Korean woman about an Immigration fraud immigrations violation and her suspected involvement with JMS and helping Jung remain a fugitive. The woman, a senior JMS member, reportedly entered Japan in March, 2000, under false pretenses by claiming that she was working as a design planner for a printing company when she was actually conducting business for the cult. The woman also collected JMS members’ donations to cover Jung’s accommodations and traveling expenses while he was evading capture, and she was responsible for soliciting and sending young women (prospective followers and members) overseas to Jung to have sex with him.

Jung’s fugitive status came to an end in May, 2007, after being captured by Chinese police. He was extradited to Seoul in February, 2008, after Chinese police officials confirmed his identity and completed their interrogation. Jung’s arrival at a Seoul airport was met by South Korean police and hundreds of JMS followers protesting his arrest. Jung maintained that he was innocent of all charges. On August 12, he was found guilty of rape and sentenced to six years in prison.


The JMS sex scandal provided insight into the inner workings of secretive religious sects and alerted the public to the underlying activities and missions of Jung’s church. Despite the knowledge of the rape allegations against Jung, many JMS members remained in the cult and continued to induct new members.

The criminal investigation into the charges against Jung was met with resistance from many JMS followers. In addition to petitions and protests, certain followers infiltrated the criminal justice and legal systems in South Korea by gaining employment in government agencies, and they have been discovered filtering classified information about Jung’s case to the church, destroying evidence, and compromising the chance for an untainted and fair trial. The rape charges brought against Jung spotlighted the potential danger for religious fraud, the abuse of power, and the sexual manipulation of members in religious cults. Jung Myung Seok
Rape;and Jung Myung Seok[Jung Myung Seok]
Jesus Morning Star

Further Reading

  • Buswell, Robert E., and Timothy S. Lee. Christianity in Korea. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006. A comprehensive study of the practice of Christianity in Korea. Good for background material that contextualizes Jung’s cult.
  • “China Extradites Chief of Alleged S. Korean Rapist Cult.” China Post, February 21, 2008. Provides a brief description of the arrest and extradition of Jung from China to South Korea and a chronology of the criminal allegations that were filed against him.
  • Daley, Peter. “Jung Myung Seok: How to Spot a Woolly Wolf.” Keimyung Gazette (Keimyung University, South Korea), February 1, 2006. Gives a detailed personal account of the cult’s recruitment strategies and an inside look at life within the JMS church.
  • Herskovitz, Jan. “South Korean Religious Sect Leader Jailed for Rape.” Reuters, August 12, 2008. A news service wire report of Jung’s conviction and sentencing for multiple counts of rape.

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